Chad says US missionary kidnapped by rebels

N'Djamena, Chad - A U.S. evangelical church missionary has been kidnapped by rebels in northern Chad, a Chadian Interior Ministry official said on Thursday.

"The governor of the northern BET region has told me that an American priest has been kidnapped in the Tibesti (mountains) by remaining members of the MDJT rebel movement," Secretary of State for the Interior Abderamane Djasnabaille told Reuters.

"The rebels took his vehicle and they are holding him at Zoumri."

A leader of Chad's Evangelical Church named the kidnapped man as Steve Godbold and said he was seized earlier this month. Other people in his group were also abducted but later released, Pastor Ngardei Bako said.

Djasnabaille said negotiations were under way with the Movement for Democracy and Justice in Chad (MDJT) rebels to obtain the release of the kidnapped missionary.

A U.S. embassy spokesman in the capital N'Djamena said he could not immediately confirm or deny the report.

The MDJT was formed in 1998, when it launched an armed insurgency in northern Chad under the leadership of President Idriss Deby's former defence chief, Youssouf Togoimi.

It fought sporadic battles with government forces in the remote region, which has the highest mountains in the Sahara, before signing a peace deal in August 2005. A splinter faction refused to sign.